Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
Posted: April 29th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | 2 Comments »
I expect you’re looking forward to the Election, the most uncertain and thrilling and pointless for decades. If you are, think of us in the constituency of Malton and Thirsk, the only constituents in the country not to go to the polls – we’ve been called off and shall not be consulted until three weeks after the results are in. Disenfranchised and early to bed sober on Thursday night. Why? Because one of the candidates has died. I have voted in every general election since the mid-sixties, and I can recollect no other occasion when this happened, though in fact it has happened eight times since the First World War, most recently at the last election. How did I miss it?
Our great fear here is that if the result is very close we shall be visted by hoards of high profile politicians, smiling and lying and oiling round us and trying to kiss our babies (have they been CRB checked?) a prospect repulsive to any sane voter. It has been my good fortune to have met very few politicians, and the occasions when I did were not inspiring. I met Portillo once when he was in the street spreading his personality about like cheap margarine in the hope of attracting votes and I was hurrying home to my wife who was in the midst of a fit of projectile vomiting, and he seemed a decent enough cove for a Tory but I had little time for him, and I stood next to Poor Old Dobbo in an Italian deli in Soho and had the exquisite pleasure of hear him ordering “a pound of mousetrap” in a very loud voice, but I did not tremble with excitement at the proximity to celebrity. I may go away.
I belong to an age group that can more or less be relied upon to vote (50+) but Mr Brown is troubled by the overall decline in turnout, quite rightly. An obvious and inexpensive solution, if there is one at all, would be to do what the French do, not usually my first choice as exemplars, and hold elections not on Thursdays but on Sundays, the day of the week least complicated by pressing commitments. But his solution? To extend the franchise to the section of the population least likely to vote (18-25) by lowering the age to sixteen – thereby at a stroke lowering even further the percentage turnout. Not a man to overlook the ideas of others he has turned to the cleverness of a Labour PM even more successful than himself, Harold Wilson, who slyly thought that he had appealed greatly to the youth of the country by awarding MBEs to the Beatles and sought to cement his popularity by lowering the age from 21 to 18, with a predictable result. Wilson did have one good idea and it wasn’t this – it was the Open University.
Well, the MBEs were returned in due course, except I think by Ringo, and the following years were followed by social unrest under Labour governments and by Margaret Thatcher and Cecil Parkinson. What possible good does Brown think it will do to place the levers of power within the reach of pimply sixteen year olds whose chief concerns are sourcing cheap alcohol and getting enough sex, reasonable enough ambitions but hardly the basis for sane voting intentions.
Anyway, think of us when you vote. And think of us even harder when, as I predict, The Prince of Darkness comes among us with all his hobgoblins three weeks later. Which reminds me – I saw another polititician once; I stood by Mr Balls in W H Smith on York station. I was greatly struck by his scarily staring eyes, and I was acquainted with fear. Has he been CRB checked?
Posted: April 27th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Inclusive design, Miscellaneous | Comments Off
I went to Naidex last week which is billed as the UK’s largest disabilityand homecare event. The new product which really shone out for me was the ParaGolfer from Otto Bock which is a specially constructed multi-terrain power wheelchair which allows a disabled or physically challenged person to stand and play golf. Its robust yet agile design means players can easily move across various terrains, without damaging the green and using the same rules and at eyelevel with other players.
Whilst orginally designed for golfers, the ParaGolfer can also be customized for use in other sports and leisure activities such as fishing or archery. With its strong chassis frame, it can cope with gradients of up to 30 degrees and sideways inclinations of about 17 degrees. The ParaGolfer will turn automatically into a safe position should these limits be exceeded. The design allows for an absolutely secure footing in any position.
Whilst not cheap, this is a truly inspiring piece of kit which has been beautifully engineered.
For more details, contact Otto Bock, www.ottobock.com 0845 430 1231
See the ParaGolfer in action on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mi0JYNPXxU
Posted: April 22nd, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Grandparents, New products! | No Comments »
Many Happy Returns 1940s is a lovely box of 24 carefully researched reminiscence cards designed to get old and young talking together about how life used to be, helping them to celebrate their personal and family stories.
Talking with older friends or relatives who can remember the 1940s has never been easier using these unique and compelling memory triggers that can help bring the generations together.
The cards offer a range of everyday subjects with large images, historical information and conversational prompts – from cleaning the step to playing conkers, from evacuation to rationing, from playing in the streets to that very first kiss…
Everyone I have shown these cards to has loved them. For people over 70, the 1940s was the decade of their lives but even for people born later much of what had happened then informed their lives also. Families needed to be knitted together again after the long absences and traumas of WW2; rationing started during the war continued as late as 1953. And of course every family has its own stories from that period to be handed down to a generation used to instant communication rather than telegrams, Ipods rather than vinyl records, huge supermarkets rather than the local grocer.
This is a lovely gift for grandparents to share with grandchildren or an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon visiting older friends or relatives.
Click here for details of how to buy Many Happy Returns 1940s.
Posted: April 22nd, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | No Comments »
I have been mocked for my unfashionable views about holidays but now you see the undoubted wisdom of my position. What will soon be known “Volcano Ashgate” as the incompetence and cover-ups emerge has laid bare the foolish recklessness of taking holidays, especially abroad. What we have seen has been a Gadarene rush to bask in the carcinogenic sun of Spain and even Florida where misery has been the result, all because of a collective failure to anticipate the probability of a million tons (tonnes, maybe) of volcanic ash being targeted, like an episode of explosive diarrhoea in a paedriatric ward, onto Britain whose harsh anti-terrorist laws we unleashed on a small nation of dodgy bankers with a population smaller than that of Leicester. They are resentful and their appeals to their Nordic gods have not gone unanswered.
Few have come out of this horror show with any credit, apart of course from those displaying the famed Dunkirk Spirit. I have watched with amusement mingled with contempt the posturings of key figures. After days of dithering our government launched what remains of our naval fleet to rescue our nationals from the beaches of Spain, hoping I suppose for the “Falkland Effect”, at exactly the moment when our airspace was re-opened. I am reminded of Harold Wilson’s fearless bombing of the Torrey Canyon vessel, beached off the Scilley Isles (where else?), in the hope of some association with Winston Churchill. And the airline bosses, shuffling their feet over compensation, only that chap from Virgin, Ridgeway I think, among them making any sense.
But the real turds in the water pipe have been the “scientists” at the Met Office and their clients among the air traffic control nabobs. It turns out that their decisions were based on computer models without benefit of any hard data, collected the hard way. I imagine them as detached lunatics staring at their screens with absolute certainty that what they are looking at is revealed truth. The Americans after the eruption of Mt St Helena had 30 military and research aircraft up within an hour collecting data. I remember when my son Edward was doing his D.Phil. in chemistry speaking disparagingly about the “wet chemists” in the labs, breathing noxious fumes and getting their fingers stained, while he relaxed in a clean office “modelling” proteins, and I thought at the time ”Can this be right?”
No-one who knows me well, or hardly at all, would describe me as a scientist – a poet perhaps, or a plunger – but I think that even I see a problem with over-reliance on computer modelling. Look at the weather forecasts – up to five days ahead, based on real data uncomfortably collected some of it, they are spot on. But long term forecasts are abysmal, based solely as they are on computer models, as it will turn out will be climate predictions that ignore entirely rich resources of actual data (thousands of ships’ logs going back hundreds of years) that will involve close and tedious study and analysis, anathema to to modern boffins who want a million calculations done in a micro-second. But don’t get me started..
Unwise though I think people are to go on holiday, I feel for those poor sods stranded in foreign parts, especially those with young children. I have been stranded myself only once – alone – in Newark, New Jersey during a “weather event” when I spent the night on the floor in the flat in Jersey City, not the garden spot of the state, of a gyspy cab driver, a Mr Lateef, who through a night of doubt and sorrow shared with me his flask of sweet tea before eventually giving me shelter. I paid him $100 for the night – cheap at the price – and felt for the families whose only advice at the airport was “There are no hotel rooms vacant in the metropolitan area”.
But there is one (that I know of) hero of this Ashgate situation. The headteacher, Rob Williams, of our local comprehensive school, an excellent school by the way if you’re looking in this area, found himself stranded in Spain with his family having gone there to refresh himself after a hard term at the chalk face. Did he burst into tears? He did not. At a cost of £7000, and with some ingenuity, he hired a coach to come and get him and flogged off the extra places to other benighted holiday makers until the bus was full. Now, teachers are not often seen as entrepreneurial but in this case we saw an example of the best of what we are capable. I hope he made a fat profit on the extra seats, and that a little of that profit may trickle down to the Friends of Malton School, in which I must declare an interest.
So, what is the take-away from all this rubbish? Don’t trust people who look at computer screens too much, look for leadership in quiet places, and if you really must take a holiday – go to Bridlington. Or Scarborough if you’re feeling flush.
Posted: April 18th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | No Comments »
We’re going through our annual ritual of considering where to go on holiday. The truth is, we seldom go anywhere and on the rare occasions when we have it has usually been a ghastly mistake. Once we went to Dartmouth for two weeks, that is to say we booked a cottage there. It was a gloomy and uncomfortable house in a dingy street, and impossible to relax in. On the Tuesday of the first week I rang my daughter Helen who asked in a suspicious tone “
Where are you?”. We were in the car speeding along the M4 back home to London.
Now Dartmouth is a wonderful place where I stay with my friend Tim who lives in a comfortable house and is a generous host and enthusiastic wine drinker, but he was not around at that time and we felt stranded with little to do. It was made worse by the presence of hundreds of coach loads of people on Saga holidays (it was September), all wearing badges proclaiming “Hi, I’m Madge” or whatever.
So we spent the balance of the two weeks hanging about in Notting Hill where we then lived, drinking wine at lunchtime, and doing in London the things that people who live there generally don’t do because they’re either too busy working or rushing off on holidays that I suspect, like me, they don’t enjoy much but don’t admit it because it’s an admission of failure or inadequacy. My usual response in the past when asked on return from holiday if I’d had a good time would be “It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me”, and this often coaxed some shame-faced confessions out of people.
Our most expensive mistake was a trip to Italy, to Lake Orta. We flew in, hired a car and drove to our hotel full of an optimism quite unjustified by past experience. We were horrified to find a building straight out of a Hammer House of Horror film, dark cold marble everywhere, and the lake shrouded in fog. The restaurant resembled nothing more than a busy autopsy suite where the silent diners were the corpses and the waiters were the dieners. The following morning, straight back to the airport where the Al Italia reservations clerk trousered the price of two high-end one-way tickets back to England. Never buy a cheap restricted ticket. As my son Edward says, usually to his wife, “Buy cheap, buy twice”. The only part of this holiday I remember with any pleasure is watching the Italian truck drivers at lunch in the (excellent) motorway service areas buckling to with honest enjoyment, each with a carafe of red wine at the elbow. But I paid a lot to witness that.
What we do now, bruised and impoverished by past errors as we are, is go away for long weekends. I have particularly enjoyed trips to Dublin to see the “Irish Foleys”, a branch of the family whose welcome is always warm and whose generosity so limitless that I often think I should check into a liver transplant unit immediately on our return. We’re thinking about going there again this year. Or maybe a few days in Bridlington.
But why, I wonder, can’t I do sucessfully what others appear to do, and enjoy a week or two away from home; they cannot all be pretending to have had fun. Is it that I live in a place that others pay to visit and can’t bear to be parted from it? Or that I’m a dull homebody, tied to the comforts of home? Or, as my daughter frequently tells me, that I’m a boring old git who doesn’t know how to have a good time? I wish I knew, but then what could I do about it?
Posted: April 16th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Miscellaneous, Offers and competitions | Comments Off
As an incentive to join our mailing list at www.thefutureperfectcompany.com , we will put you in a draw to win one of our lovely double handled teapots by potters, Reckless Designs, as featured in Design Week. How can you resist?!
Posted: April 15th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Miscellaneous | No Comments »
I went to a seminar a couple of weeks ago arranged by the Age UK business network and The Helen Hamlyn Centre at the Royal College of Art. The subject under debate was “The Older Consumer and Retail Space”.
There was much discussion about how older people navigate around shops and the pros and cons of out of town shopping versus the high street.
Chris Kent from the electrical retailer, Comet, gave some interesting insights about how the big retailers perceive the challenges of the people getting older. He summed up the advantages and disadvantages of high street locations versus retail parks as follows:
High Street – Pluses included easy access including via public transport, a familiar and less intimidating environment. On the negative side, the range and space available were more likely to be limited, parking might be difficult and the smaller stores would mean that staff would be more generalist.
Retail Park – Advantages of out of town shopping were plentiful parking, larger format stores with more space and bigger ranges and specialised staff. Cons included a more intimidating, noisy and youth orientated environment and lack of public transport.
Do you agree?
However, it is not all about buildings and Chris pointed out that Comet had recognised that the first step to an inclusive approach was service. “We are moving from a commodity market to an experience economy. Understanding the customer is key and the shopping experience needs to be more personal”.
And I think that is right. It is not all about wide aisles and disabled parking spaces and whilst buildings should be designed to reflect the needs of all consumers, it is how it feels to shop in a certain place which determines whether we return.
There are two kinds of shopping – necessity and leisure. For the essentials such as the weekly food shop, we often want a fast, efficient experience such as is provided by the out of town supermarkets. For leisure shopping, on the other hand, we are more likely to want to browse, stop for coffee, to chat.
Each sort of shopping requires a degree of service although I think we need to be clear that the sort of service consumers want as they get older is not necessarily as a result of their perceived disability. Older consumers are as likely to opt for the high end products as for any “simpler” versions. My experience is that people want information from people who know what they are talking about so that they can make an informed choice. They do not want to be bedazzled by “offers” and “deals”, the actual benefits of which are difficult to unravel. Clear labelling would be a good start.
And if you couple that service with a preference for a more personable high street environment, you have a shop with specialist rather than generalist staff. Which is rather different from the high street format in which Comet is currently trading. Which to his credit occurred to Chris as the seminar progressed..
Posted: April 11th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | No Comments »
You asked me what it was like growing up in Hull in the 1950s. To give a bit of context, I was born in 1944, about a year before the Second World War ended, and I have few reliable memories, if any, of the mid-to-late 40s. The early fifties was a splendid time to be a small boy. Although there was another war going on, in Korea, and the possibility of yet another over Suez, I was barely aware of either dazzled as I was by the plentiful supply of military surplus materials; every little boy had a gas mask, an army water canteen, and lots of khaki webbing. The luckier ones had fragments of shrapnel liberated from the bomb sites that we were forbidden to approach but in which we foraged in a feral way hoping to discover not only bomb casings but also bodies of German airmen. Boys who grew up in areas untouched by bombing must have had a thin time of it. Also the girls, though I do remember my sister requisitioning our air-raid shelter as a wendy house.
An abiding memory was the constant presence of low-flying military aircraft, presumably operating out of the many RAF bases in East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire. This was at its most exciting, that jump-up-and-down-and-do-a-little-wee-in-your-pants excitement that every small boy knows but never admits to, when we visited the coastal town of Withernsea where we could watch aircraft attacking, with live bombs, surplus naval vessels tethered off-shore. Whether they were training pilots and bomb-aimers, or disposing of unwanted ships I cannot say; perhaps both. We stayed there at a seaside boarding house run
by the family who had taken my mother and brother in as evacuees “for the duration”. Well, not quite that - they were first evacuated to Lincolnshire, a strange land visible across the river Humber but seldom visited from Hull to this day. When my father discovered that my mother was pregnant with me and my sister he whipped us smartly back over the river, not you might think to secure for me the possibility of playing cricket for Yorkshire, but to avoid the dreadful fate of being born a Yellowbelly, a Lincolnshireman. North Humber bankers regard those on the Lincolnshire side with suspicion; low of brow and crafty of eye, they are, unreliable and with a yellow tinge to them caused by living their lives in the fen sucked fogs of Lincolnshire.
Living today as we did in the fifties we would be regarded now as deprived children, without benefit of social workers, below the poverty line: no fridge, no telly, no car, outside toilet. But nobody I knew had these things, but now no child I know has an air raid shelter to play in. Food was basic, cheap thanks to Commonwealth Preference, but rationed. No fat children, and obesity in my generation is uncommon still, compared with today where most children seem to range from chubby to Bunterish. I was a happy child.
We enjoyed freedom now almost unknown to today’s children, freedom to roam and explore and take risks up trees and on bomb sites. My sister, cousin and I would walk from Hull to Preston unaccompanied, about five miles, and back again clutching our packed lunches – dinner we would have called it – with stern intructions to stay together, instructions which, if disobeyed would have been followed by retribution swift and fearsome. Our parents now would be regarded as negligent, but they were not, they were wise.
In Spring 1956, to my outraged incomprehension, my sister and I were, along with others, obliged to go to school on two consecutive Saturday mornings: we were sitting “the scholarship”. This was to lead to great change. The following September we crossed the city to attend grammar schools, now much reviled, where we were confronted with French, Latin, and algebra, subjects hitherto unknown, and in my case corporal punishment. Childhood suddenly became a more serious affair.
Posted: April 10th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Care, Legal - employment, Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney | Comments Off
Catriona Watt is an employment law expert at Fox lawyers, www.foxlawyers.com
Business, Government and charity leaders have recently backed better support for employees who balance a job with caring for an older or disabled person. Ministers have also announced that six Government departments will sign an agreement with “Employers for Carers” on how they will work in partnership to develop and promote support for carers in the workplace.
Carer’s rights are on the current Government’s agenda as part of its endeavour to increase employment rates in the UK. The proportion of people having to balance work while caring for another will increase as life expectancy continues to rise and as people work longer to save for retirement. In its White Paper “Building Britain’s Recovery: Achieving Full Employment” published on 19 December 2009 the Government emphasised its aim to work with employers to promote flexible working practices. It intends to carry out consultations on how it can help people meet their caring responsibilities while remaining in work. This may include additional unpaid leave for planned responsibilities such as hospital visits and unpaid leave for carers of someone with a terminal illness.
At present, the law allows employees “reasonable” time off in certain circumstances and only in respect of “dependants” (which is limited to a spouse, civil partner, child or parent (but not grandparent) of the employee, or a person who lives in the same household as the employee). There is no specific guidance as to what constitutes “reasonable” time off but case law has shown that it will usually be a few hours or in some cases one or two days. Often this will not be long enough and it most cases it can be difficult for the employee to determine exactly when they might be able to return to work.
Carers also have the right to request flexible working which an employer must accommodate unless it has a “legitimate business reason” for refusing the request. Some commentators have suggested that the right to request flexible working is a right without teeth because an employment tribunal can only subject the employer’s decision to very limited scrutiny and can only make very low awards of compensation if the right is breached. Employees also tend to find it difficult to discuss flexible working with their employers for fear of portraying themselves as not committed to their job.
Carers will however welcome the recent decision in the case of Coleman v Attridge Law which developed the concept of “associative discrimination”. This means that carers may also resort to the Disability Discrimination Act where they are treated less favourably than others or subjected to harassment because of the disability of the person they care for. The Government has already decided to prohibit associative discrimination in relation to other strands of discrimination (i.e. age and sex) in the Equality Bill, currently before Parliament, which is intended to come into force in October 2010.
The current Government has said that its long term ambition is to ensure that flexible working practices are embedded in all businesses across the UK, so that all employees are able to discuss opportunities for flexible working with their employer from day one of employment, or even pre-employment.
Of course a new Government may approach this issue very differently and it remains to be seen how this agenda is progressed after May 6th. Watch this space.
This is a general account of the law as it currently stands. It is always best to seek legal advice for specific queries.
Posted: April 6th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: New products! | No Comments »
Grow your own vegetables this year with the innovative Culti Cave
Made from tough UV stable PVC, the innovative Culti Cave created by British designer Rob McAlister, is the flexible, portable and space efficient way to grow your own fruit, flowers and vegetables. Unlike a traditional greenhouse, it is easy to put up and take down. The Culti Cave packs away to a mere 53cm x 20cm x 10cm but when erected is 2m x 1.67m x 0.8m. And if that is not big enough, the Culti Cave has a door at the rear which can be unzipped allowing you to connect more units.
What we love about the Culti Cave is that it is more robust and roomier than similar products on the market and there is enough space to instal staging or raised beds so you don’t spend your time bending down. And if you need the space later in the year for a garden party, you simply take it down and put it away.
Click here for details of how to buy.